Last year, the early-season loss for the Oak Creek boys basketball team to eventual Southeast Conference champion Racine Park was a brutal disappointment.
Up 10 points with six minutes to go and star Harrison Cleary playing well, the Knights just couldn't hold on, and dreams of a league title faded with the defeat.
Cleary is gone to Minnesota-Crookston, but players like Drew Yetka and Bobby Smith are back, and they clearly remember that loss, and on Dec.9 in Racine, it was time for payback.
Yetka scored 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, while 6-5 Smith held the Panthers' 6-9 NCAA D1 recruit Nobal Days to just 8 points, as the Knights led start to finish in recording a key 52-38 Southeast victory.
What veteran Knight coach Mike Jossie, whose team will take on archrival Franklin on Tuesday, Dec. 13, liked most was the attitude after.
"I don't think I've had a team play as well as these kids did, especially defensively," he said. "Just a great job. I thought the week before they were locked in against (Kenosha) Bradford, but they were even more so against Park. And the kids didn't didn't do too much celebrating afterwards. They were excited for something like this, as they should have been, but even then they were getting ready for the next challenge."
The win improved the Knights to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Southeast play. They will host Franklin (3-0) in the opener of a boy-girl doubleheader at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13.
And if the 6-6 Yetka is as locked in as he has been so far for the Knights, that could be an interesting evening. He hit nine field goals, including two 3-pointers, and all nine of his free-throw attempts against Park.
"He did a really nice job," Jossie said. "He didn't force anything. He just took what was given him, and he's become so versatile. Sometimes he brings the ball up for us. It's pretty special right when a 6-6 kid like him can play all positions. We're playing through him right now. It looks kind of one-dimensional, but it's not because we have others who are capable of stepping up."
Jossie had even higher praise for the 6-5 Smith who did "a magnificent job" guarding Days all game long.
"We told Bobby, it's the kind of game you're not going to get many rebounds, but he did a great job making sure that Nobal didn't get any either," Jossie said. "I don't think Nobal had one offensive rebound."
Oak Creek had a 22-10 lead at the half and just continued on from there. It was 42-20 in the second when the Panthers hit a couple of NBA-length 3s to make the game appear closer than it was.
"They tried to run and jump us (defensively) to try and increase the pace, but we held our composure," Jossie said. "It was a beautiful game — the second in a row where we didn't allow a transition basket."
Joey Zietlow and Jakup Sinani added 7 points each for Oak Creek, which was 14-of-19 from the line as opposed to 8-of-12 for the Panthers.
"Last year was such a disappointment," said Jossie of the Park games, "but this was a great step up."